Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Think Left

My England trip was not a leisure holiday. It was a mission to see and experience all the historical sites in as much time as humanly possible. Our most trusted guide was the British GPS we named Tammy, the female version of TomTom. We changed the accent of Tammy a few times on the trip. For awhile she was an Irish woman, Australian male, and most of the trip a British woman. Without Tammy our British adventure would have been circling roundabouts. My dad, being a typical guy, was always challenging Tammy. If Tammy didn't bring our car to the exact desired spot, my dad would announce himself the true navigator. However, Tammy would get us to the destination, just on the wrong side of the building or something. A few times when we had trouble getting Tammy to work, an acute panic fell upon our flock. 

Our expensive maps, we bought in America, couldn't help our right minded brains when we experienced meandering roads and strings of roundabouts. I've never been in so many near accidents in my entire life. My dad would not always time merging into the roundabouts correctly and would either cut people off or barely squeeze in. On top of it all he hadn't driven a manual in years. 

Driving in the villages and towns was even worse! Cars parked on both sides of the streets which reduced the street to a single lane, forcing both sides to drive down the middle. And most of the time we were forced to play a dangerous game of leap frog. Cars would dart in and out of gaps where cars weren't parked, and alternately allowing traffic to either go or stop. Driving around corners meant driving through a bottleneck and hoping the oncoming cars weren't going to play Chicken. 

Parking was made easier by finding parking structures. We didn't dare rent a car when we were in London and utilized the subway (Tube) and buses instead. 

On our last day in England, we almost succeeded in truly becoming a Griswold Family. We had spent the day exploring Cambridge and decided to drive to the small town of Saffron Walden to eat dinner. We were still unsure of which street lines meant park or don't park. But we drove up a side street and parked behind a line of British cars all parked on white zig zag lines. So, we were certain we could trust local Brits to park in the appropriate spots. Oh we were so wrong! After we finished the best Italian food we had all trip, we walked back to our awaiting fate. 

                                                              Saffron Walden
My dad was the first to spot a cop next to our parked car. Right away the police officer came off as indifferent and irritated towards us. He announced, by pointing at the white zig zag lines, that we had parked in an illegal zone. My mom was on the verge of tears as she explained that we parked behind other cars in this same street. But to my mom's horror, all the cars had magically disappeared between the time we left for dinner and the time we came back. The officer didn't seem surprised by our explanation and said that Brits are known to park illegally all the time. 

My mom pleaded and we (kids) tried looking as pathetic as possible. He informed us that a tow truck was on its way. My mom did not give up, she presented her case with perseverance. She invoked our 'foreigness', confusion, and desperate situation of leaving tomorrow morning. Whatever she said struck a cord with the officer. He promptly got on his radio and cancelled the tow truck simply stating 'American family showed up'. 

We thanked him profusely and ended our trip free of a horrible disaster! 


*pictures from Yahoo images

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